The festival offers another opportunity for a life of sacrifice, charity and love

    The Eid al-Adha, better known as Eid-el-Kabir being marked today across the world is a festival that calls for rededication to the cause of mankind, to appreciate the gift of life and to imbibe the virtues of tolerance, understanding and good neighbourliness. This day, according to a scholar, is meant “to multiply good deeds by bringing happiness and pleasure to the hearts of other Muslims, by helping and supporting the poor and needy, and by getting involved in pastimes that emphasise the strong and serious Islamic character.”

    Therefore, amid the traditional consumption of ram meat that is customary on a day such as this, it is important not to lose sight of the true meaning of this special occasion and the spirit of sacrifice it represents. Given the level of deprivation in the land, perhaps no period in our history offers better opportunity to share and to make sacrifice. The socio-economic conditions of the country this year makes it compelling for adherents of Islam and indeed all Nigerians to look beyond themselves and their immediate environment. That explains why the occasion should go beyond the slaughtering of rams to sharing love and material possessions not only with relatives or acquaintances, but also with the displaced, the elderly, the orphans and other people at the margin of the society, including those with special needs.

    The lesson of Eid-el-Kabir is simple: by paying attention to the plight of the poor, we invariably place the welfare of our neighbours as important as ours; by allowing others to partake of our wealth or material possessions, we honour the One who made the provision in the first place. This happens to be at the heart of all religions, but a virtue that is particularly at the heart of this festival. It is also important that Nigerians begin to embrace and support charitable causes and there is no better occasion than today’s to make such resolve.

    What particularly makes the festival significant is that it is rooted in the scriptural accounts of both Islam and Christianity about how Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), in obedience to God was to sacrifice his son before divine intervention. Thus, the true meaning and essence of this occasion are: submission, obedience and love, virtues that are in short supply in our country today.

    This year’s celebration, like in the past few years, is coming at a particularly difficult time for our nation. The temperature is uncomfortably high, fouled by acrimonies and recriminations between and among different ethnic groups and political parties, especially as we inch towards the 2019 general election. However, if we understand the fact that we are all creations of God, the propensity for hate on the basis of some artificial differences would reduce and we would relate more to one another with love and mutual respect. Tolerance across these artificial divides that our politicians have erected will foster harmony and promote peace and development in the country. It will also help the process of healing the deep wounds sparked off by politics and the manipulation of religion and ethnicity.

    Against the background that there are usually challenges in the process of integrating members of any society into a cohesive social whole, what confronts us may not be particularly peculiar. But it will require all citizens working together if we are to resolve many of the ills that plague our nation. Therefore, as we celebrate this special festival, we must reflect on and imbibe the essence of sacrifice and humility for the promotion of harmonious relationship in our country. We also need to take this opportunity to reach out to everyone in promoting love, peace and unity.

    We wish our Muslim readers Eid Mubarak.